Category: First Year

Photo Courtesy of James Xue (SEAS ’17)

When I first arrived at Columbia, I felt lost in the sea of freshman. NSOP felt overwhelming and overbearing at times. Though it was created  to spur genuine interaction between fellow first-years, in my case it often just produced superficial introductions and goodbyes. Needless to say, I was a tad worried at the prospect of finding those “forever friends.” Perhaps this feeling was compounded by the fact that I live in Wallach, a dorm with first-years as well as upperclassmen, so the majority of my floor had still not yet moved in.

After all the upperclassmen move-in day, however, something changed. The lobby would constantly be filled with people, driven out of their rooms by the September heat and into the floor lounge for AC. Even after the heat subsided, the upperclassmen stayed and just talked about whatever came to mind. As I inserted myself into these conversations, I quickly found some of my first and closest friends at Columbia. There’s Will and Ashu, who are always in the lounge and ready at any given moment to order UberEats. There’s Cindy and Victoria, the reigning Queens of Wallach 4; there’s Ralph, the fixed guest-resident from Wallach 2. There’s Josh, whose ability to make me smile never fades, even after the most stressful days.

As I quickly learned, these people were always happy to lend a helping hand, and whether it was a difficult pset or an emotional breakdown didn’t matter. As juniors and sophomores, they were also able to provide insightful tips and tricks, ranging from warning me about John Jay’s meatless Mondays to telling me how to score some free gear at various events on campus. More than just resources, these people have shaped and defined my experience thus far. I’m only two months in and already eager for the rest of the next four years. My initial tensions and anxieties have all but subsidied; in Josh’s words, I know that “everything will be ooooo-kay.”

Meet Perrin. Perrin, a current first year in Columbia Engineering  from Saratoga Springs, NY is a prospective Computer Science and Applied Physics double-major also planning to study abroad in his time year. We sat down with him to learn more about him and his unique interests and passions.

What are you current passions? How do you think you’ll pursue them on campus?

I am a hardcore quantum computer scientist. I’ve worked with people in the field already within it. People get taken aback by the world quantum, but I wish they wouldn’t. It’s just a way to make really fast computers that are super useful. I took a lot of weekend classes and attended at the institute for quantum computing in Canada. They built the biggest quantum computer and I took a selfie with it. I learned all this math, physics, and quantum computing in a short amount of time. I was one of 3 from the US who got to attend and I made friends with other students from around the world.

I’m working to get a research position here with a person about to get their PhD. I would be working on quantum computing algorithms and simulations.

Of everything you’ve worked on, volunteered for, and studied, what are you most proud of?

I juggled four paid jobs at once in high school. Since they were all different days and I had my regular high school studies, this was something I was proud of. I lived on my own for about a year so I took the jobs to pay for my apartment and life. I worked at Starbucks, I was a software engineer for two years, IT intern at school, and a paid sound designer at my local theater. There were times they were all at the same time and then they started cycling.

I think I accidentally stumbled on computer science in 8th grade. I think I found a programming site online and started playing with it for fun. And then I really liked physics so I had an epiphany in 10th grade that the two blend together so nicely.

What are you interested in studying here? Why?

I am a double major in SEAS with a study abroad in London. I will be on a theoretical track in computer science and an applied physics major. In this I get to also be an applied math minor just by taking the two majors. I am planning to stay next summer to do my own research through CUSP and I think I will be able to take some classes over the summer so I never have to take more than 5 required classes. There’s a couple of classes that I have some experience in that I can take over the summer to make my life a little easier.

What are you most nervous/anxious about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

My school was good but not spectacular. Knowing I am going in against people with such an amazing amount of preparation is a lot. And I know it evens out after a semester or two, but it can be intimidating.

What are you most excited about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

Not being bored.

The people. I came from a town where I never had a class with anyone who was Asian, Hispanic, etc.; I was the darkest-skinned person in classes. After doing diversity programs, I realized I loved genuinely learning from people of other backgrounds.

I am about to live on Broadway [plays/musicals]. I cannot imagine a better school for this. I really want to be a tour guide. I love this school so much and I want to show everyone else how amazing is. I low key convinced 10 people in the Class of 2020 to choose this school over others and I played off all of Columbia’s positives. I am still in awe of this dream place.

Any goals you have in mind? 

My biggest goal is to develop quantum computer algorithms that benefit the research aspect (like math could be used by this) but also for medical informatics. These could help with cancer research to compile more data and that would be really cool to work on. Applying it to an area that needs it rather than just building them for the hell of it. So finding the real-life applications for them. I think my dream is to be a professor who does Engineering without Borders (EWB) during the summers and some sound design at theaters between it all. I plan to join EWB on campus and the Columbia Musical Theater Society.

Why Columbia?

I first came down to visit Columbia and then went to Princeton with my friend as a joke to see how pretentious it was. I came in and went to an information session. It was so Columbia College-centric that I left afterwards. I went to the engineering experience first but I came and fell in love with it. I then applied ED and December 10th I was done. I was laughing as I watched all my friends because I was done.

There are a few professors here working on quantum computing here. One of the professors here passed away after I submitted my application, but I am happy there are still people here working on it.

I also love how small SEAS is. That’s really interesting and nice. I see NYC as the second biggest tech hub. What other schools are we competing against for all these opportunities?

Out of curiosity, what is the future of cryptography in your view?

All of our current cryptography will break, but quantum cryptography research is advancing fast. Knowing that this out there and it’s getting better compared to general quantum computing, I think that might save us (at least for now).

Throughout the semester, we’ll be featuring interviews from new students. To recommend someone for an interview or to become an interviewer for The Lion, email team@columbialion.com

Morningside Heights is pretty good for a college town, but the best part about our neighborhood is that there’s a conveniently-located subway leading to other vastly more interesting parts of New York.

In honor of our beloved 1 train, and in an effort to help new students get away from campus while they can, The Lion staff presents the best things to do in NYC that aren’t within five minutes of Carman.

Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge

Take the subway out to Brooklyn at night and walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge, lights on and everything. Grab a slice at Grimaldi’s while you’re at it — it’s some of the best pizza in the city. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, grab a Citi Bike on either side of the bridge and do some late-night riding.

Take the Staten Island ferry WITHOUT a tour group

Oh my god do not go with a tour group. Don’t be those people. When you get there, don’t leave immediately—take the bus (Yes, there is public transport in SI) and try some of the excellent Italian food that is cheaper than what you’ll get in Manhattan or Brooklyn. And while it’s still warm outside, check out Ralph’s Italian Ices. Yes we know that there are multiple locations in the area, but this is the original one! And if you’re already having pizza nearby, well…

Best part? The ferry is free. No joke.

See a movie at the IFC

Preferably a midnight one or when there’s a guest speaker. Get one of the ridiculous food or drink items they sell (overpriced ice pops, coffee, apparently some of the highest-rated popcorn in New York, etc.), and/or get Artichoke pizza on MacDougal street. Grab some tickets here.

Get a piercing on St. Marks

Yelp it for ratings first. Seriously. Yelp it. Some of those places are scary. Apologies if you’re 17.

Go to Shake Shack

Yeah, it’s not just in New York anymore, but it started here and you owe it to yourself to grab a burger and milkshake at its original location in Madison Square Park. Be a pro and go for the Shack-cago Dog instead of a Shack burger. The Shack was originally a hot dog cart, after all. (But the shakes are definitely gold.)

Hit up Columbus Circle

Bring a camera out to Columbus Circle and wander the park. You’re sure to find unforgettable street performances just around the corner, and Bouchon Bakery has to-die-for macarons when you need a snack.

Go to museums

There are like a bazillion great museums in New York, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t visit at least one of them by the end of NSOP (plus they’re a great place to chill with your new pals). The Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe American Museum of Natural History, and MoMA are all “free” (suggested donations) for Columbia students, and other (slightly) less famous choices — like the Museum of the Moving Image and the Frick Collection — are cheap for those with a college ID.

Go to Smorgasburg

Every Saturday and Sunday through the last week of November, Smorgasburg offers New Yorkers a chance to try some of the coolest and strangest food ever conceived. How does a Ramen Burger sound? (Spoiler: it’s good). How about a tuna taco, or Filipino-style spring rolls? There’s also just normal good food available from small time vendors that you wouldn’t get to try anywhere else. For locations and times, check out the Smorgasburg website.

Visit the Reservoir after dark

Bring a friend and don’t go too late, we don’t want you getting mugged (although the park is actually extremely safe), but the nighttime view of the city from the Central Park Reservoir is amazing. Go to the 96th street entrance and walk straight until you’re on the running path. Get right up against the small fence that prevents you from falling in the water for the best vantage point.

Walk the High Line

The High Line is located on West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues, and is one of the nicest public spaces in the entire city. Open daily from 7 am to 11 pm, the High Line is a one-mile elevated train track that has been converted into a beautiful park. There’s great (but expensive) coffee and bars located along the way, as well as Chelsea Market nearby, so feel free to just chill on the many benches and enjoy a view of the Hudson River.

The Greenway

If you like bike riding or long walks on the water, the Greenway is one of NYC’s most under-utilized attractions. The giant path is eventually meant to circumnavigate the fringes of the Island, but for now, start at 59th street, walk west until you hit the river, and then walk south. You’ll run across some of the best views in the city, Hudson River Park, and eventually the Freedom Tower if you keep on going. Almost the entire Greenway is next to the longest bike path in the city, so snag a Citi Bike and make a day of it. Speaking of which…

Go ride Citi Bikes all day

It’s still warm out, and a 24 hour Citi Bike pass is about ten bucks. Get your friends together, go to Columbus Circle, and rent some bikes. Then spend the whole day riding around downtown New York, stopping to explore cool shops and otherwise having a good time. Once it gets cold this gets roughly 1 billion percent less fun.

Meet Charlotte. Charlotte,  Morningside Heights born and raised, is a first year in Columbia College interested in studying History with a focus on Medieval Studies and Classics. We sat down with her to learn more about her goals while at Columbia and about her current passions.

What is your hometown?

New York, NY in MoHi. It’s going to college from across the street from where you grow up. But it’s interesting navigating a place you’ve known with a student life you’ve never experienced.

What are you current passions? How do you think you’ll pursue them on campus?

I went to LaGuardia to study visual arts. I love all kinds of arts but a lot of photography and graphic design. I might do photography and design for some clubs. I also want to try out theater. I think I also I want to join the ski team on campus. I’m auditioning for CMTS and KCST. And I might visit all the club info sessions. I want to just visit the club fair and learn from there.

Of everything you’ve worked on, volunteered for, and studied, what are you most proud of?

I was editor of my high school literary magazine. I basically did everything because I cared so much about it. When we transitioned from a yearly print to a blog, there was a great controversy (but unlike Blue and White, there wasn’t a divide). Being on people to create content, doing interviews, and dealing with a school that doesn’t care at times. Being able to find a club and get a position of power where you could go for it that I now cannot control and seeing that grow.

What are you interested in studying here? Why?

My intended degree is in history with a concentration with medieval studies and classics. I’ll be in school for a while. I want to be a historian, write books, and spend all of my time reading about christianization, paganism, and vikings, etc.

I became interested in it from two roads. One was mythology. I remembered asking my dad to teach me Latin because it seemed so cool. Now I’m taking Latin this semester because I want a more thorough understanding.  In terms of Greek and Roman mythology, Ajax has been my homie since 4th grade. I studied mythology from around the world and folklore. Really all of these stories. I went through  a lot of career ideas and a few ideas of what I wanted to with my career. I at one point wanted to do fashion and then looked at it and realized I’d be a walking panic attack.

I considered medicine and neuroscience and realized I didn’t want to do medical school. I then realized that my dad’s job as a historian was being a professional nerd. And then I realized that’s exactly what I wanted to be. My dad’s a historian and my mom’s an art historian so we’re quite a nerdy family.

This semester, I’m taking a lot of classics classes. I really want to take one called History of Cold. There’s a class about vampires. There’s a medieval Latin class and then all the graduate history classes.

What are you most nervous/anxious about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

One thing I want to see is how my relationship with my neighborhood evolves. I’m in a new context in the exact same place. I want to see if I succumb to the Columbia bubble. I don’t know how permanent by desire to leave to other neighborhood changes. Will Westside seem like it’s too far in a few weeks? I hope not.

I also worry at times about finding your best friend in college. I’m already meeting people I like now so I’m getting less worried about that thankfully.

What are you most excited about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

Everything. One of the best things about Columbia is the amount of opportunities. It’s all free (after tuition and selling your soul to FAFSA). I moved across the street and now can walk into Avery and look in the ancient art archives with my friends. There’s so many internships and having a .columbia.edu address opens a lot of doors. Everyone I talk to here is so interesting. It’s overwhelming how much stuff there is to do. I’m excited for such a packed schedule and to explore all of these opportunities.

Any goals you have in mind? 

  • I want to write a senior thesis.
  • I want to make use of the rare books and manuscripts library for said thesis.
  • I want to get really invested in a club or two, like I was in high school. I want to pour my heart and soul into something. If I become a columnist, I want to be able to get really invested in something worthwhile.
Throughout the semester, we’ll be featuring interviews from new students. To recommend someone for an interview or to become an interviewer for The Lion, email team@columbialion.com

Meet Bunmi. Bunmi, a first-year in Columbia Engineering, is originally from a suburb about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta, Georgia. We sat down with him to learn more about his interests in Biomedical Engineering and some of his goals while at Columbia.

What are you current passions? How do you think you’ll pursue them on campus?

I really got into Spanish in 8th grade. I want to minor in Spanish and my roommate is from Spain so I want to pursue it and practice. The language is incredibly useful especially in the Atlanta area. It came naturally to me and I love it.

I am also definitely interested in research. I want to keep trying to do that on campus once I learn how to balance my school and research. In high school, we had senior projects to help you explore careers. Since I was interested in medicine, I did a psychological study in my high school to study the factors correlated with intelligence. I used my high school as the sample size and looked at factors like race and GPA. I learned race and bilingualism didn’t play a significant factor. The main things were income and extracurricular activities. When you have more money you can do more things. Part of the project is a product, presentation, and a paper. So I wanted to see how we could improve underperforming schools. It came down to private or public funding of summer programs and extracurricular activities.

Of everything you’ve worked on, volunteered for, and studied, what are you most proud of?

I was a part of my church leadership group. It was a good way to give back to the community in a non-academic, scientific way. It was humbling to be a mentor and I’d want to do that here even if its not from a religious connotation. On campus, I want to join Peer Health Exchange and tutor program, Engineering without Borders and definitely Matriculate. I’d like to get into the city and help in low-income programs.

What are you interested in studying here? Why?

I want to study Biomedical Engineering (on the pre-med track) and Spanish. For the longest time, my friends loved Grey’s Anatomy. I originally refused to watch it, but when I did, I loved it. I love the idea of devoting your life to other people’s lives. I originally wanted to be a pilot. In 7th grade, we once did a dissection of a chicken and no one else could figure out how to do it. When I could, my teacher recommended I be a surgeon. That got me thinking maybe I should do that and pursue it. Even though its a big sacrifice, I still want to do it and help people.

In high school, I took Physics C. Even though it was super hard, it was cool to see how practical it was. BME adds another perspective to being a doctor. I hope it gives me a different perspective to being a surgeon and what I want to do.

What are you most nervous/anxious about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

It’s going to be a big jump to high school. NYC is a lot more diverse. I grew up near Atlanta and thought I knew city life, but when I laded here it was NYC times 10. I don’t want to get bogged down studying or going off campus to much. I want to learn everything I need to know and learn while exploring.

I want to get into all five boroughs eventually. I want to try all the ethnic cuisine here that I never have had in Atlanta. I want to try a lot of new things.

My sister’s very very into Broadway and I want to see more shows and get into the art scene more.

What are you most excited about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

I want to structure myself in new ways. Being around so many different people (international, LGBTQ, etc.) and learning all these new backgrounds. I’m excited to pursue higher education and physics and get out of my comfort zone for the first time in my life. It’ll be nice to just try something. Things are always happening here in NYC and people are open-minded compared to more conservative, traditional Atlanta. All things even, I definitely love New York a lot more than Atlanta…

Any goals you have in mind? 

I hope to be a neurosurgeon at a teaching hospital in 10-13 years. I definitely want to get into global outreach (whether with Doctors without Borders or on my own). I want to be in research wherever I am. I want to do things that helps others, not that just things that make money. I don’t have a career goal, but I want to know what is the best I can give.

Throughout the semester, we’ll be featuring interviews from new students. To recommend someone for an interview or to become an interviewer for The Lion, email team@columbialion.com